2x12 Bench #4: Sexy Legs

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Blog entry by Tomcat1066 posted 02-18-2008 01:34 AM 2904 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: We're underway! Part 4 of 2x12 Bench series Part 5: A Bad Day »

Early this morning, before the sun was even up, I was sharpening. When you’re a hand tool guy, sharpening is something you must do, and must do well. Sharp blades will slice easily through wood. Dull blades, not so much. Sharpness was essential for today’s work. Why? Today was the day to shape the legs. If you recall, when I left off yesterday, the legs were less than spectacular, to say the least. How about a quick recap?

Start legs

The jigsaw didn’t exactly make a good, square cut, and that threw things off a bit as far as getting stuff done was concerned. However, it wasn’t a big deal. Stuff happens after all, what defines us is how we deal with that stuff. Me? After whimpering and pleading to the heavens “Why me?”, I sucked it up and figured that now would be a wonderful time to use a spokeshave. I have a #51 that was one of my early purchases, but haven’t have a need for it until now. A few quick tests yesterday showed that this would do the trick.

Now, for today. On December 19, 2007 my grandmother passed away after being in a coma for several days. It’s been hard for my small but very close family, but life has to press on. The morning today was spent going through my grandmother’s possessions, as it has been for the past several weeks. It’s not a pleasant task, but a necessary one. However, it kept me from doing a great deal on the bench. That’s OK though…at least my woodworking was available to help me get things straightened out and to provide something positive.

I started on the first leg, the same one I had tested yesterday, with the trusty #51. Talk about some rough going! The grain reverses itself at the bottom of the curve, which means that, if you go to far, you will have tear out. Also, the chatter was awful from this thing. I tweaked the blade as many different ways as I could, and eventually got a decent surface. However, it was still rough. The #51 has a flat bottom, which doesn’t work well with curves. While you can get a semi-curved surface with one, you’ll still need something else to really get it smooth like a curved bottom spokeshave or a good quality rasp.

Now, take a guess what I don’t have. Did you say a rasp or a curved bottom spokeshave? Congratulations! That’s right. I don’t have either of them. So, I did something I generally hate to do and broke out the sandpaper. The tear out was significant, and I was broke so I had to use what I happened to have around the house. Luckily, I had some 50 grit, and since I wanted aggressive, this was the place to start. I then went to 120 grit, and finished up with 220 grit. I got a nice, smooth surface with this technique. I just hope it won’t be a problem when I move on to finishing.

The second leg went much easier so far as the spokeshave’s function went. I don’t know if it was the grain, or that I had finally gotten the hang of the tool, or I had it tuned properly at last. I really don’t, but I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth right now. The sanding needed to continue, just for continuity sake, but was much easier on the second leg. The still need some sanding, but the shape and curves were my focus for today. Sanding will, hopefully, be done tomorrow.

Now, here’s a few shots of the new, sexier legs:

sexy 1

upclose sexy

sexy 2

Now, something I tried to work on yesterday and today was to not be such a perfectionist. I have a bad habit of tossing a project because it’s not perfect. Instead, I’m trying to make it good enough that others won’t notice. When Jennifer got home from grocery shopping, I asked her “what, if anything, is wrong with this leg?”

She studied it for a bit, and then said she couldn’t see anything. Now, I knew every lump and bump that wouldn’t go away on those legs, but she didn’t. If she didn’t, when I actually asked her to find stuff, means they shouldn’t be noticeable to others either. I am trying to stop letting the “perfect” be the enemy of “darn good”. So far, so good.

Tomorrow is to finish up the tenons, and to cut the mortises, and hopefully sand, dry fit, and put the first coat of stain on. We’ll see how that plan holds up though, and go from there.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

9 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3520 days

#1 posted 02-18-2008 01:47 AM

One of the things that I figured out to save my sanity was “Learn to Discern”. That is figure out what matters and what does not.

Even on my high-end projects there is alway something that is less than perfect. I call them “humble spots” and that’s just the way it is.

Unless it is actually bad most customers don’t know they are there and for goodness sake don’t tell them about it!

I use to try and make things to metal machinist tolerance levels and that does not work with wood. Wood moves all over the place compared to metal so I had to loosen up on the “sphincter factor”.

I think that your legs are looking pretty good and I look forward to the finished photos.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3217 days

#2 posted 02-18-2008 01:49 AM

Thanks Todd. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do, and why I asked my wife her opinion before I told her anything about it. Now that they’re shaped, it’s over so far as I’m concerned. Any imperfections are now “character”, as my wife put it :)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4010 posts in 3484 days

#3 posted 02-18-2008 02:09 AM

Things are looking good, TC. I think you should leave the blood drops (I have consecrated a few of my own pieces with a little leakage due to some accident or other), both as further evidence of your own work and as a subtle reminder to be careful while working with sharp tools.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3217 days

#4 posted 02-18-2008 02:11 AM


If I didn’t need to sand the wood first, I probably would leave the blood. However, I’m hoping it soaked deep enough that traces will remain. If so, it should be interesting after the stain :)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View ben's profile


158 posts in 3291 days

#5 posted 02-18-2008 04:11 AM


Looks like a fine start. I’m excited to see where you go with this, since I was given 4 pieces of 1.5” x 13” x 5’ of Hemlock, and was thinking about trying to convert them into 2 or 3 benches. Keep the pics coming!


View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3243 days

#6 posted 02-18-2008 05:04 AM

Nice job Tomcat. Woodworking can be frustrating at times but it definately is not a mindless activity as it forces us to focus on the processes on which we are currently working. While this can be mentally fatiguing, as you mentioned in your previous post, it does give us temporary relief from other, less pleasant, thoughts. My condolences on your grandmother’s passing.

I agree with Todd’s comments. We tend to be harsh critics of our own work and focus too much on what we perceive as flaws which usually go unnoticed by others unless told what and where to look.

Keep making sawdust. I had rather be reading and responding to these posts than watching anything on television (with the exception of Norm, but you are a close second.)

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 3417 days

#7 posted 02-18-2008 08:58 AM

Good work on the legs today TC – I’ll cross my fingers that you can accomplish all you set out to do tomorrow. Oh – a question: How did you decide upon and draw out your original curves? Did you make a template, or…

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 3581 days

#8 posted 02-18-2008 01:15 PM

(sorry to hear about your grandmother. I hope the family is doing well)

The legs are looking good!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3217 days

#9 posted 02-18-2008 01:45 PM

Thanks Ben. I’ll definitely have more pics coming. I figure that this may be of some benefit to some other newbie. Besides, I don’t want anyone thinking I really just bought something at Ikea and am passing it off as my own :D


You’re right on all counts. It was definitely not mindless work, but focused work that did have room for unpleasant thoughts.

Also, nice to be right up there with His Normness ;)


Thanks for the finger crossings, and yep…it was a template. I took a piece of cardboard, set it’s alignment with the bottom of the leg, and then cut a simple curve. I honestly didn’t know another way except freehand, and I suspect that would have been a disaster!


Thanks. LumberJocks, the only place where you can say stuff like “Nice legs” and “the legs are looking good!!”, and not be coming on to someone :D

To all:

Thank you for the condolences. I miss her very much, and more so when we are going through her belongings, which also include belongings of my grandfather who we lost in 1981 and my uncle who we lost in 2002 at the age of 39. It’s difficult going through all that, but necessary. I’m sure everyone here can either relate, or at least understand.

Thanks again folks.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

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